We sat down with former Meta, Google, and Yahoo product manager Ridhima Kurana to get her tips and advice on product case interviews, a framework to prepare and the common mistakes to avoid. If you are someone who is a budding product manager and going in for an interview at a leading tech company, this article will take you through the steps to prepare for your interview
The following are the types of product case interviews that you can expect:
These questions are usually asked to see if you can identify user persona and whether you can think extensively and innovatively. These questions look for inspiring solutions to categorizing and segmenting the audience. Questions could include:
- Design Twitter for the blind
- Build a product podcast for Facebook
- Design a new elevator.
The main point here is to define the user's needs and solutions
Product strategy is your ability to understand and apply market dynamics, things happening worldwide, and industry trends. These questions are usually asked if you are interviewing for level 5 (at Meta) and above roles (not entry level), which are above associate product manager roles.
These questions are open-ended and tend to be ambiguous problems. With questions like these, the world is your oyster; you can be as creative and particular as possible. These focus on your understanding of the world and your ability to apply concepts in a structured way. Examples of such questions are:
- Should Spotify increase its subscription cost?
- What should Zillow do next?
These questions are about existing products and experiences, and the interviewer is looking for your take on how you can improve them. These focus on your ability to elevate the experience of people. The interviewer is looking for your ability to identify and prioritize user pain points, define creative solutions and measure success. Their primary focus is on your understanding of the metrics to consider while improving a product or experience. For instance, the interviewer might ask:
- How would you improve Google photos?
- How would you improve your experience of finding a doctor on Google?
Product growth tests your business acumen, UX skills, and scrappiness. There are multiple ways to think about product growth. One way is to do conversion funnel optimization for an existing product to make it grow. The other is to diversify revenue streams, enter different markets, and partner upwards and downwards to get a broader market.
An interviewer might ask you:
- How would you grow a travel app without a marketing budget?
- How would you grow Twitter without ads?
A framework to answer Product case questions
Product design framework
Ridhima shares the framework she developed after years of being a PM and coaching thousands of product managers. Let’s dive into her framework using an example. For instance, the interviewer asks you to design Twitter for the blind. To answer the question, here are the steps you can follow.
Step 1: Clarify the Goals and assumptions
To identify the goals and assumptions, it’s essential to understand what the product is, how we use it today, and why we need it. For instance, Twitter is used in various aspects like a news medium, a medium to communicate, etc. You should also be able to identify if it ties into the company’s mission. For instance, if it is a product/service idea for an existing company, you might want to identify the company’s mission and whether or not your concept binds with the same.
Step 2: Identify Users:
TIP 1: Think beyond demographics into behavior and needs for user personas. It is crucial to go beyond demographic users and focus on psychographic segmentation. Try focusing on new mothers and people interested in music and writing. Doing psychographic profiles will ease the prioritization of needs. While thinking of user personas, go for psychographic sets.
TIP 2: To get real-world, “meaty” target groups, use a criterion to choose your target users.
Choose target users based on specific filters. For instance, on Twitter, you decide only to target celebrities. Remember, demographics come after psychographics for a better target filter.
Step 3: Report Needs: What are their needs and challenges?
After identifying a target segment, it will be easier for you to report the needs. Look at the customer journey to say requirements (user notices they are low on food, makes a list, chooses to go to the store or shop online, buys foods most suitable for a small household, samples new foods, checks out, chooses between paper and plastic bag, etc.) Take them through the user journey, and focus on the users' pain points. Prioritize the need you want to focus on and use the Five Whys to understand the needs more precisely.
Step 4: Summarize the goal and define Success Metrics:
To define success metrics, it is essential to prioritize the need. You can do need generation by going through the cycle of the condition or problem. Go back to the user persona, and identify where in the journey is the product requirement to summarize a success metric. It is crucial to define a counter metric to get a holistic picture of product success. For instance, you want to prioritize adoption by tracking daily active users with quality. Base your success metrics on facts and news. While giving out metrics, also give out counter metrics so that you can give a holistic picture and your metric is solid.
Your solutions will vary depending on the metric you align with the interviewer.
Step 5: Start brainstorming solutions and prioritize
Every time you are creating Twitter for the blind to post content, you know you are now going to trade off something. It is time to brainstorm solutions, directing towards your aligned metric, after you have finalized a graphic and problem statement. After prioritizing a solution, a trade-off is involved every time you decide.
Step 6: Summarize with an Imagine statement (something inspirational)
End your argument with an image statement. This will leave the interviewer inspired and make your interview memorable. Say you have developed a product solution for the blind; we will live in a world where everyone will have access to Twitter, and everyone will have a voice, and that is the sort of world you want to live in.
Product improvement framework
Following the same framework we used with the product designing, you just need to add another step: ‘what does improvement mean to you?’
After clarifying the goals and assumptions, identifying the users, and reporting the needs, you talk about what improvement means. Does improvement mean increasing the engagement of the product, the quality, or the revenue generation? Talking about progress will help you define your success metric in the case of product improvement. Talk about focusing on specific things in your improvement cycle. And just how you talk about design metrics, talk about your improvement metrics/success metrics.
Product strategy framework
To be able to answer these questions, you must have an understanding of the market trends and market dynamics, and the latest things in the industry. Questions like, ‘What should Zillow do next?’ Be prepared with these answers.
These are the following steps to follow while answering these questions.
- Identify the prompt, in this case, what is Zillow, and answer the whys and whats while dealing with these questions. Talk about the industry and market trends regarding the product or service. Further, discuss the company and the organization's mission, mentioning a few competitors.
Highlight the mission of the company. Spend the first 10-15 minutes clarifying the business goals, discussing the company's financier, business models, press releases, changing directives, etc. You should be aware of the valuations of big organizations.
These high-level points can lay a good base for your answer. Talk about the opportunities outside of the company’s boundaries. However, strengths and weaknesses should be more specific to the company. Product strategy questions focus on your understanding of the market dynamics.
The strategy can be as follows to determine what the company can do next.
- Diversify revenue sources
- Increase customers, enter a new market, customer stickiness
- Barrier to entry
- Being one-stop shop
- Low-cost leader
- Reduce reliance on essential buyer
- Test a new market
Present ideas refined, and ensure your ideas are strategic, not just minor feature enhancements.
Following similar steps to the product design framework, make sure to encapsulate your response and end it with an imagined statement. Choose this statement wisely to describe how you inspire leadership.
Product growth framework
The difference between product strategy and the product growth framework is the amount of time you spend on individual points. While responding to a product growth framework answer, spend time on how your ideas support and enhance the product strategy. For instance, if the interviewer says, out of all the users that end up on Shopify’s homepage, only 10% end up creating a store on the website, how can you improve the situation? In this example, the interviewer would want you to focus on conversion funnels, how to optimize the conversion funnel, and metrics to measure success. Additionally, you can talk about pricing and diversifying revenue streams.
How do you elevate your answers?
The premium skills lie in how you elevate your answers.
Finally, here are a few tips to keep in mind while answering product case questions.
- Create a list of new technologies around you. For instance, AI, VR, ML. Read about these technologies and their current usage in various industries.
- Create a list of recent trends and changes in the market. For instance, the impact of the war, inflation, pandemic, supply chain issues, etc. These things highlight your capabilities as a product manager.
- Spend the time defining problems. Do not jump to the solutions. Defining the problem is 80% of the work done. Ensure that you direct the right situation.
- Ask questions and make the interview interactive. Do not treat it as an interrogation; make it flow like a conversation.
- The imagined statements are industry-kept secrets. A good PM will anchor your mission towards the problem. Using an imagined statement, highlight a point beyond your solution; this will elevate your answers.